Listening – an overlooked leadership tool?

Are you a good listener? When others are talking to you, do you give all your attention to them, or do you find yourself – at times – only half-listening?

In the HBR article, “Listening Is An Overlooked Leadership Tool” by the Head of Learning and OD at Twitter, Melissa Daimler, we learn that experts estimate that people spend about one third to half of our time listening, and only about half of what we hear is actually retained.

In the article, Melissa shares 3 levels of listening :

Internal listening where we focus on our own thoughts, worries, and priorities, even as we pretend we’re focusing on the other person. (I refer to this as ‘cosmetic listening!’)

Focused listening where we focus on the other person, but we’re still not connecting fully to them. The phone may be down and we may be nodding in agreement, but we may not be picking up on the small nuances the person is sharing.

360 listening. Melissa says that this is ‘where the magic happens’. This is when we are not only listening to what the person is saying, but how they’re saying it — and, even better, what they’re not saying, like when they get energized about certain topics or when they pause and talk around others.

What level of listening do you do most of the time?

And what is the impact of that type of listening?

  • What is being missed?
  • What is the consequence of this type of listening on your relationships?


  • So what ? What should you keep doing – and what needs to change?

Melissa offers some ideas about how to improve your listening – try them all this week

  • Look people in the eye. Put the devices down!
  • Create space in your day. Manage your calendar and stop booking yourself out the entire day. Give yourself time for reflection and space throughout the day, so that when you are talking with someone, you can give them your full attention
  • Ask more questions. Next time a colleague or employee asks for advice, make sure you’re listening and understand the situation. Then, before answering, ask a question. Clarify what they really need — usually it’s just validation that their thinking is on the right track.

Despite working for an organisation that is one of the most powerful leaders in the evolving technology age, Melissa shares a very poignant point. “Even in a world of limitless, instantaneous, global connection, the most powerful mode of communication is that of two people listening.”

Click here to access the HBR article.

Click here to see our other posts on listening, including our tips and hints guide on Active Listening.